INSIDE THE TEEN BRAIN
photo of a teen sleeping at a deskjoin the discussion: Do you recognize your teen--or your teenage self--in this FRONTLINE report?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I personally believe that a parent cannot understand what is totally inside a teenagers head. The teenagers themselves don't completely understand what they are going through. I know because I am a teen. Right now what we need to do the most is Prioritize our lives. Its nice to have some help but we need help from some one who can relate. Not just someone who follow some guidelines typed up by some "Expert" in teenage mind.

Abir Khan
New York City, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a music teacher of all ages, I have noticed a hugedevelopmental leap in string players in early adolescence. They begin to internalize music as a newlanguage to express their feelings and views of life.Suddenly they show individuality and originality ofstyle interpretation, and "musicianship." Does anyoneknow of any studies which document this development inadolescence, especially early (i.e. middle school)?

I also would appreciate anyone citing the source to meof a report from summer, 2005 (or maybe earlier), thatconcluded there is a window of brain development due tomusic instruction in childhood, which closes at aboutage 11.

Dr. Anne Clark
Morganville, Kansas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 16 year old girl living in MA. I watched your program and was kinda annoyed by it. I really didn't appreciate having scientists try to explain what goes on in my brain, cause they have no clue.

None of the adults in the program ever mentioned anything about them being teenagers and knowing how we feel. Which made feel like they don't really understand, which they don't.

Rebecca Myerson
South Walpole, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this great program.My husband and I have a thirteen-year-old daughter.She is a great person who is always there to help others when the situation arises.She is extremely independent,and,she knows where she wants to go in her life.However,she does get mood swings from time-to-time like most teenagers her age.Our daughter has developed an excellent relationship with us,and,she tells us when something is really getting on her last nerve.Before,when she would be angry,she would slam doors and yell at us "You just don't understand.You have no idea how much pressure is on me.Why do you have to make me feel guilty?"Lately,these mood swings are rare.My husband and I have learned that patience is the key. We started to research different ways of getting across to our daughter.We had taught our daughter about "Cause and Effect."She had decided that for every right action there is something positive,and with every wrong action,there is a consequence.This was crucial for her to learn.Thanks to this informative program,my husband and I had seen first hand how a teenager acts and what to expect from this kind of behavior in the future.

Our daughter is going to be entering the eighth grade in the fall of 2004.She will have to work harder and study harder than she had done in the previous year.Our daughter is realizing that,if she does not study and work hard,she will never get ahead.This is what she had learned from her own personal experience.This program was an eye-opener for us,and thank you for airing it.

Medina
Brooklyn, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

Why are the researchers in this story expending so much time and resources looking inside the teen brain in particular? Are we to believe that they get access to those resources just because they have teens of their own that they're curious about or are they part of a company that is doing research to create more behavior modifying drugs?

Spending an hour chortling over teens having funny brains is what I'd expect from commercial tv, not pbs.

Frank Chapman
South Bend, Indiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

Good grief, I was lucky! I was an only child. I was the exact opposite of everything you see in this program. There weren't any "rules" in my house. I can still remember my Dad saying to me when I was a young teenager, "I hate making rules. So use your own intelligence and behave yourself, because if I have to make any rules, YOU won't like the rules I make any more than I like having to make them." That ended his "problems" with a teenager right then and there.

I had a chemistry set when I was about ten years old. But this was no ordinary chemistry set. My Dad worked for a chemical company and he added stuff to the set that no child would normally be given. I had concentrated nitric, sulfuric, and hydrochloric acids. I knew how to make nitroglycerine, a powerful explosive. My Dad told me how to do it. He also cautioned me NOT to try it! But I did used to experiment with making gunpowder.

I was treated as a responsible adult from little up. It paid off in spades for them in the long run. I grew up to be a mechanical engineer. I'm sixty years old, and I lived with my parents as three adults in the house from the time I was in high school until my Mom died in 2000 and my Dad just died last month. I took care of them with Alzheimer's disease for the last five years of their respective lives. They never got shoved into a rest home. I guess they were lucky too.

Kurt Greske
Apple Valley, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for a great program. Any information that assists me with my own teenagers is helpful to my entire family. I would also like to share this with teachers of teenagers in the university classes that I teach.

gallup, new mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was great that you used the "Zits" cartoon to illustrate points in the program. It is definitely a favorite in our house. I feel like the cartoonist is observing our family since many times the cartoon is exactly something that has just happened. We have 15 year old twin boys who are good students and involved in sports and music. The program helped re-enforce the importance of continuing with these pursuits and spending minimal time with the TV and video games.

But, with all the activities and the very large amount of homework, my two are still up writing papers and won't get their 9 1/4 hours of sleep tonight again! I wish there were some way to balance this all in a more healthy manner. Sports in school are given too much emphasis and require so much time that it is almost impossible to be a student who excels without being sleep deprived. I wish that there were more opportunities for "just for fun" sports activities that didn't get such a heavy emphasis (with away games until midnight on school nights!) Thanks for a great program.

Kristin S.
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am sixty-six years old, have been retired as a public school teacher for seven years, and am currently teaching one eighth grade French class.

I watched your Frontline report with great interest and some questions. Your findings are reasonable and the feelings and attitudes expressed by the teenagers mirror what I sense from my students. Some student reactions that I have not understood are clairfied by your studies: sudden angry responses when I felt no animosity to the student, for example.

What puzzles me is why angry and outspoken behavior on the part of students has become increasingly more overt. Two years ago, I taught an eighth grade class with whom I had a wonderful rapport, and there was atmosphere in which boisterous fun and mutual respect were equally present.

In my present class, there is a hostile atmosphere that I am unable to penetrate, and this has been a noticeable pattern in the last ten years.

Is there anything in your research that scientifically accounts for a change in the anger level of teenagers, as well as adults? Lack of respect is common not only to schools, but to society in general - road rage, confrontations in public places, Jerry Springerism on television, etc. Are the young merely imitating adults, or is a change actually taking place in the brain?

Richard Cornett
Roanoke, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program on brain and adolescence points to a number of interesting findings and speculations regarding brain development sleep, learning, social relationships, behavior, etc. While establishing relationships among these concepts is very important, current knowledge is, at best, half-baked. Nevertheless, bravo for your program.

However, I believe that the best set of elaborated instructions for current parents of teenagers is best stated in social and behavioral terms, like unconditional love, inordinate attention weaved into taught parental skills. In the end, brain plasticity will provide the means for success or failure in this endeavor.


Morgantown, WV

Dear FRONTLINE,

I accidently found the program this evening. Thanks for a professional production of a topic of interest. I hope all the parents of teenagers will have a copy of Zits close at hand to keep their sense of humor. What a wonderful way to get a mental adjustment. When raising teens one needs one many times a day.

I hope to catch the next scheduled airing.

Carol Gardner
Pontiac, Il

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you. This program was very helpful. It is good to know that we are working on understanding more what happens to people at different stages of their lives.

My son is 13 and we are already in the thick of the teen rebellion. It was fun to see the cartoonist who drew my favorite cartoon that is on our refrigerator. It pretty much sums up our lives right now dealing with a teen in the house.

Thank you again!

Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great show! This wonderful science reaffirms the need for parents to educate themselves on how to raise their teens. I just want to state our societies materialist values are impeding parents to properly raise their kids. I know Islam and its values go along with all aspects of this program and are the proper guide to all ages.

raied abdullah
orland park, ill

Dear FRONTLINE,

This mesage is to let you know that the show Inside the Teenage Brain helped me a lot in my psychology class. I am taking an adolescent class at Cal Poly Pomona and this show helped me understand more on what is going on with adolescents in an easy way. Sometimes books are hard to understand and it is easy to get frustated. However, watching the problems in a real life situation is more interesting. Finally, I want to thank you for leting me expand my knowledge of things trhoughout your shows. I can not help the station monetarily since I am a student but I promise that as soon as I am in the position to help, I will do it. Most of us in may family watch your interesting shows and once again thank you for making my nephew smarter.

Alejandro Cano
Pomona, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

your recent show on the teenage brain has taken me back eleven years to when I was fifteen.

I was one of these "troubled and anxious, emotional and disturbed" children you described. Instead of being treated like normal teenage behavior, I was treated with anti-depressant medication. I have been on and off these drugs ever since. I would like to know if there are any studies done that show the long term effects of the brain being put in this position for so many years. If my brain was just going through a stage, did the drugs effect the process?

Thank you for the informative study, maybe it will steer parents and docors away from treating teenagers like they are mental, and realize it is a normal stage of life.

Jennifer Shuford
Asheville, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing "Inside the Teenage Brain". As parents we are grateful for the insight the program provided into the brain of a teenager. As the program showed, much more research needs to be performed on this subject. Do you expect to air this program again? If so, when?

Tracy, MD

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Please check with your local PBS station. They have the option to rebroadcast this program at any time.

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